If there is unity to be found in the wake of Paris, it is in our shared desire for peace.
There is a bitter, ugly irony today in the trending hashtag #Pray4Paris and haunting “Peace for Paris” graphic being shown alongside the news of France’s military strikes against ISIS-held positions on Sunday.
Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, characterized these attacks as self-defense, saying, “We cannot let [ISIS] act without reacting.” The United States has pledged its assistance to the French and is credited with providing them with intelligence information about ISIS strongholds in Raqqa, Syria. For now, we wait in the wings, but there is a growing, vocal contingent that is pressing the US to take center stage in the war against ISIS.
These voices do not speak about the complexity of our involvement in the Middle East. They do not concede our own role in creating the instability and chaos that gave rise to terrorism, and they certainly do not beg our leaders to pause and reflect before doing more of the same. They are voices without nuance, only vengeance, and they are the same voices that leapt on the bandwagon of jingoistic patriotism in the wake of 9/11.
The French response to the Paris attacks has been eerily similar to our own response to 9/11. To at least some extent, it is understandable — in the wake of violence and tragedy, it is human to look for someone to blame, and the thirst for justice can be overwhelming. But we have seen how this story ends, and we should be speaking out loudly and without pause against these acts of war.
If there is unity to be found in the wake of Paris, it is in our shared desire for peace. Yet, as long as we cling to the idea that peace and security can be won and lost through war, we will never have peace. Terrorism will continue, our retaliation will continue, and this cycle of horror will grow and spread like the plague it is.
War creates otherness and bloodshed; devastation and destruction. It topples tyrannical governments only to replace them with other tyrannical governments. War makes a few people very rich while murdering, raping, and torturing the many. War does not bring peace. Full stop.
I am sick and tired of terrorism, but I am even more sick and tired of war. I am embarrassed by my country’s role in funding and developing groups that later became our enemies, and I will not fall for the rhetoric that killing a few more brown people will finally make us safe. I am sick and tired of all of the bullshit, and all of the death, and I will not leap on another bandwagon that supports another costly, devastating war. I know how this story ends — and so do you.
After 9/11, we permitted the stripping away of our civil liberties in the name of safety. Immediately after the attacks, the French implemented heightened security that closed their borders and allowed for what is essentially martial law. Already, French leaders have expressed their plans to seek parliamentary approval to extend these measures past the allowable 12 days. Somewhere, I’m sure the drafters of the Patriot Act are smiling.
Meanwhile, people are dying — far more than the 129 people who died in Paris — and they are dying because they are being turned away from the borders of nations who could otherwise save them. Six US states have already declared their own refusal to accept Syrian refugees. These refugees are fleeing the same terrorists we call our enemies, yet we are turning them away in the name of safety and security, while dropping more bombs on Syria that will displace even more citizens and create even more refugees. We are part and parcel of the problem and we must be part and parcel of the solution.
If we want to fight ISIS, we must open our hearts and our borders to their victims. We must create a safe haven for all of their victims, not just the chosen few. Brown lives and Muslim lives matter as much as American and Parisian lives, and our policies must begin to reflect that truth.
Pray for Paris, certainly, but our prayers alone are not enough — we must come together and demand peace, too.